Hey, Hey, My, My: Questions to Consider

CSNIf you look to the little advertisement that’s opposite this (of course, when this entry moves down the page, this direction will make no sense, so please keep in mind that this is a spatio-temporal instruction, one that has a limited shelf-life—at most) you’ll see that there is the opportunity to “win” two discs that include the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash. This is music that was first released to the public in 1969 and 1982. When you do the math, that’s somewhat frightening. That is, the first “album”—called such then—made it to the racks 37 years ago. Chances are probably good that the vast proportion of the people who are looking at this site (this means you) have been around for less than that period of time. Then there is that 13-year gap between the release of the first disc, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and the group’s third disc, Daylight Again. Which brings to mind the fact that there are probably few—if any—contemporary (and relevant) bands who have lasted 13 years (or about whom it can be said that 100% of the original members have performed on a disc after that period of time, which means that bands like The Who don’t count, although a Bob Dylan solo performance would count).

The three members of that band are still around. Still making music. But does anyone listen to it? Is it as good as what they did decades ago? If it isn’t, then it brings to mind this question: Do musical performers get better with age or, like badly corked wine, do they go vinegar? To be sure, there are the physical failings that we are all prone to: vocal cords become less lithe; fingers are hobbled by arthritis. Notes that were once hit or grasped are no longer readily achieved. Does this mean that performers who were once vital become something that is only tolerable or objects or nostalgia as we listen to their contemporary performances and cut them tremendous amounts of slack assuming that they’re people whom we once revered? (If we reviled them, then it would be like nuking fish in a barrel.)

Is there a point at which performers should just stop, leave the stage, go away? When the Rolling Stones—or, more accurately, what’s left of the Rolling Stones—perform at Superbowl XL this Sunday in Detroit (see the first parenthetical remark above as this, too, will soon be moot: timing is everything), will they be better than they were the many previous times they’ve performed in Detroit (practice makes perfect, right?), or will they be nothing more than embodiments of things past? Should we turn down the sound on our TV sets and crank up Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out (which is a mere 36 years old)?

Does rock and roll never die, or should it sometimes?

Enter to win some classic rock. You know you want it!

16 thoughts on “Hey, Hey, My, My: Questions to Consider”

  1. Hmmmm… rock & roll will never die, but you nailed it with your implicit conclusion that some of its purveyors, once they realize they’ve lost the passion, should hang up their rock & roll shoes. And it’s criminally easy to tell who still has fire in their eyes and high-test in their veins; Neil Young still has it, but the Stones clearly do not.

    Related to that, just because the Stones are making monkeys of themselves these days does not make Sticky Fingers any less of a great album.

  2. What about Bad Religion? They formed in ’80 (26 years now…), and they’re still playing pretty fiery political punk. Although they’ve lost members and taken a couple breaks, I still can’t think of another punk band with that kind of consistency and longevity. Props to them.

  3. look at it two ways. in a business sense, a lot of these bands that have been around a while are a brand that is being offered up to the public for consumption. if there’s a market for it, they keep moving forward. even if their performances have diminished and the new product is of a lesser quality, if there’s someone that wants to see it, let them have it.

    on the other side of the coin, there’s a passionate fan response. if we ignored the elder statesmen of any genre of music we would miss out on a lot of great stuff. ray charles, john lee hooker, neil young, jon langford, kevin coyne, richard thompson, tom waits, willie nelson, johnny cash… all were or are producing wonderful art in their later years. are they relevant to younger generations? maybe not. though, it doesn’t matter much to their core following.

    a great song to listen to while thinking about this topic is “mr. richland’s favorite song” by harry nillson.

  4. Such a subjective question you pose has no hope of ever yielding a satisfactory result. It depends primarily on the listener (the old “beauty in the eye of” argument), but is instrinsically linked to said performer/musician. I don’t think these guys should ever stop as long as they enjoy doing it. Even if I (or you) think it sucks. If there’s still an audience willing and able to pay $75 – $100 to go see The Stones, let them waste their money. As long as The Stones enjoy it and their fans in attendance like it, it’s all good. What do I really care, I’m going to see Low.

  5. that stupid buddyhead claims that the new stones is as good as their old stuff…

    i think theyre lying bastards though

  6. Had a chance to see CSN in concert this August. Have they lost a little? Absolutely – the playing isn’t as crisp, the harmonies don’t quite sparkle like they used to, and they’re new songs don’t light up the ears like those early ones – but does that mean they’re necessarily worse? Absolutely not. With time and experience, the songs and performers take on new meanings and come forth in a new light. If the passion is there, the music is too, even if the notes aren’t as high if they were way back when.

  7. Artists that have relevance late in their careers are the exception that proves the rule. You can list them on one hand.

    Give it up, you moth-fingered old has-beens, and let the next generation take over!

  8. Having watched the Stones during the halftime show last night, I do have to give them credit for probably one of the most authentic Super Bowl performances I can recall. Little in the way of distractive exercises and simply straight-ahead rock and roll. And Jagger was certainly realistic when he said they could have played “Satisfaction ” at Super Bowl I, and there they were, at XL. So credit where credit is due. And the guy can still skip–imagine!

  9. Rush? Bad Religion? Shurly you must jest?

    I think it’s more insightfull to think about pop and rock musicians the way we think of other artists. And to likewise look at the very best, or the genius class of pop & rock musicians, in the way that we would evaluate most other Genius.

    Generally, as with people like Einstein, the major influencial product of their intellect, their one BIG idea that sets a context that in turn influences the product of subsequent people in their field, usually comes at a point in the beginning of their adult careers. It’s not that Einstein wasn’t relevent after Relativity. His intellect was extreme. But that was his Exile On Mainstreet, so to speak.

    That can happen to musicians too. They can still rock, but they probably ain’t gonna think up any new formulas through which we view the rock universe once they enter middle age.

  10. Unfortunately for every one aging band/artist that manages to remain vital and relevant over the years (Neil Young) there are 10 that are just going through the motions and milking it for the touring cash (Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Van Hagar/Halen, etc.).

    I take Murph’s point that how bad the Stones are today does not diminish how good Sticky Fingers is as an album, but I still think that continuing like they are soils their legacy to a large degree. I mean I get the feeling that if Ronnie Wood died tomorrow they would just take a month off, replace him with some session player and keep on going….until the next one (Charlie?) dies. It would appear that only once Mick or Keith kicks the bucket will they say goodbye. But Mick is healthy as a horse and Keith is basically pickled, so I think we’re stuck with them for at least another 10+ years. Oh joy!

  11. No one begrudges B.B. King the right to continue his career, but the Stones are a running joke. Why is that? Because they’re rich, white, and haven’t put out a good record in 25 years, so they’re “fair game.” But what was B.B. King’s last great record?

    I’ve always said–particularly in the case of what’s left of legends like the Stones, the Who, Zeppelin–put them up next to all the best new indie bands, the very best you can think of, and I guarantee most of those newer bands will be blown off the stage.

    So what if they’re playing the oldies? Who wants the newies? It’s fucking Mick, Keith, and Charlie doing “Brown Sugar.” That’ll do, you know?

    These guys are legends for a damn good reason–no matter how calculated their “business dealings” seem to be.

    (Doesn’t mean I’m forking over to see these dinosaurs anytime soon, though!)

  12. Barabajagal is right: we tend to praise those BB Kings for still keepin’ on, but God forbid a white British blues rock band for trying to replicate the very same path that their influences did. Nobody seemed to criticize an old Willie Dixon for singing about how ‘the little girls understand’ and yet everyone goes “eww” when an old Mick Jagger says anything remotely sexual. Stones bashing is as easy as yelling “Freebird” at a concert, and it’s just as annoying. Don’t like the new Stones album or tour, then don’t buy it.

    As far as passion is concerned, I agree: if it isn’t there then hang it up. But at the risk of sounding like a hardcore Stones circa ’06 supporter, I can’t say that the Stones don’t sound at least a little passionate on “A Bigger Bang.” And think about it this way; the Stones corporation has made them enough money to retire a hundred times over. So why do they do it? There has to be some need (read: passion) that keeps them going.

    And like Barabajagal, I don’t plan on seeing the Stones anytime soon. But I am planning on seeing Low this month and I’ll bet you that the Stones could blow their ass out of the water even in their 60’s.

  13. “So why do they do it?”

    Look at it a different way: Performing is pretty much all they’ve ever done. What else are they going to do with themselves?

  14. Right. What else are they gonna do? Most people retire and finally do what they enjoy. Playing rock in front of adoring fans appears to be enjoyable to the Stones and CSN etc, so why retire, or are they retired and pursuing a hobby?

    After 5 or 6 albums musicians don’t seem to record anything that surpasses what they did before. Like Mellencamp said, “there are five songs, I jsut right them over and over. A musician can try a different genre, like McCartney doing classical but I don’t think any rockers have had much success with that. Neil Young comes to mind as successful in various forms of rock, maybe that supports his popularity.

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